The 7 Best Travel Backpacks of 2024, According to Testing

Save yourself time and stress by carrying everything you need for your next trip with one of these backpacks
We tested the best travel backpacks.

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Traveling is difficult enough without towing a rickety roller bag behind you. At the airport, experience the time-saving effects of out-pacing the crowd by carrying everything you need on your back. If you’re driving, a travel backpack stows, stacks, and squishes easily into the available space. In some cases, you can reuse your travel backpack as a daypack during your trip instead of leaving your clunky suitcase in the corner, useless and taking up space, until it’s time to leave. However, not all travel backpacks are created equally. Different qualities will perform better whether you’re road-tripping to a camp spot, planning an international adventure, or traveling for work. I tested the best travel backpacks for convenience, organization, and comfort for anything from a weekend away to an epic journey.

How We Chose the Best Travel Backpacks 

I chose these bags because they are all carry-on sized and fit for a gear intensive-weekend or week-long get away. I chose manufacturers that make reliable products with durable materials for bags that won’t shred or snap on your first trip. The best travel backpacks can withstand some abuse from yanking, schlepping, and sliding on your journey. I took these bags on overnights, weekend excursions, and big trips to determine what qualities perform best on the road, in the air, or wherever your next adventure takes you.

Best Travel Backpacks: Reviews & Recommendations

Best Overall: Mountain Hardware Redeye 45

Best Overall

Mountain Hardware Redeye 45

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Key Features

  • Weight: 3 pounds, 2 ounces
  • Materials: 500D Cordura Nylon
  • U-shaped top zipper
  • Back panel access
  • Removable hipbelt
  • Padded laptop sleeve
  • Price: $180

Pros

  • Padded hipbelt, straps, and back panel
  • Pocket with flap for easy tucking and grabbing

Cons

  • No raincover

Mountain Hardware’s Redeye is built for speed. It’s slim for easy maneuvering in crowded spaces. It also has load lifters, a padded hipbelt, a padded back panel, padded straps, and a sternum strap to carry heavy weight comfortably. You can easily access the main compartment with a back panel zipper and U-shaped zipper on top. A long vertical side pocket features a lip of fabric over the top so that you can tuck or grab something from this pocket without unzipping anything. 

A water bottle pocket on the opposite side has a cinch cord to keep items from falling out. The lid of the bag is also a pocket and there is a padded laptop sleeve. The thoughtful design of the many pockets make this bag the perfect carry on. The zipper pulls have loops making it quick and easy to access all zipper pockets. Handles on the front and back of the top make it easy to grab your luggage off a conveyor belt or out of a car or overhead bin. The removable hipbelt and tuckable straps can further streamline this pack for going through security or checking the bag. 

It’s structured and comfortable when carrying gear, heavy loads, and irregularly shaped objects, making it great for adventure travel too. The full back panel access is particularly great for car camping because you can access the contents of your bag without having to dump everything out or dig to the bottom. There are external attachment points for carabiners as well. Overall, this is the best carry-on backpack for almost any method of travel.

Best for Backpacking

Osprey Kyte or Krestrel 38

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Key Features

  • Weight: 4 pounds
  • Material: 100 percent recycled 420D nylon, DWR treated without PFAS
  • Adjustable torso lengths
  • Included rain cover
  • Compression straps
  • Price: $200

Pros

  • Slim profile
  • Padded mesh on straps, back, and hips

Cons

  • Heavier

Using a backpacking bag as your travel backpack isn’t new, but you don’t have to sleep in European hostels or pack a tent to reap the benefits. After all, they’re designed to help the wearer comfortably haul heavy loads and built with rugged materials to withstand the backcountry, let alone an overhead bin. The Osprey Kyte (designed for women) and Kestrel (designed for men) are particularly well suited for travel thanks to the plethora of pockets. Both include a brain with zipper pockets on the inside and outside, hip belt pockets, a front stuff pouch, and two water bottle pockets on either side.

There’s also a good amount of access to the large main compartment either through the top drawstring closure, vertical side zipper, or the bottom pocket. The floating divider that separates the bottom sleeping bag compartment can be easily undone via two buckles to merge the bottom pocket with the main compartment.

The Osprey Kyte fits in the overhead bin even with a sleeping pad attached to the bottom.
The Osprey Kyte fits in the overhead bin even with a sleeping pad attached to the bottom. Ashley Thess

I lived out of the older 36-liter version of the Kyte for a month and recently took it on a trip to Puerto Rico where I used it as my main luggage, suitcase for a three-day camping trip, and a beach bag. It’s the perfect size for a carry-on (as long as you don’t overfill the brain) and has a generous amount of space for a 36 liter bag. The sleeping pad straps and compression straps are ideal for securing oddly shaped gear, and the vertical side zipper still allows you access to the main compartment even if you have the compression straps cranked with gear hanging off them.

It’s plush, comfortable, and manageable in crowds thanks to its padded, breathable back panel and slender, lightweight frame. The zippered hip belt pockets are great for snacks, a boarding pass, room key, or other small essentials. I’ve had it for two years and taken it backpacking as well as traveling and the only damage it sustained is two small holes on the front stuff pouch that have since been tastefully repaired with a jackalope from Noso Patches. Osprey’s Kyte might not be the most lightweight backpacking pack, but I appreciate features like pockets, straps, and attachment points more than weight savings when traveling.

Read Next: The Best Camping Towels, Tested and Reviewed

Best for Big Trips: Gregory Alpaca 60 Duffel

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Key Features

  • Weight: 3 pounds, 6 ounces
  • Material: Water-resistant, TPU-coated, recycled polyester 900 denier ripstop fabric 
  • Large U-Zip opening
  • Padded, removable shoulder straps
  • Price: $160

Pros

  • Roomy
  • Weather resistant
  • Heavy duty zipper

Cons

  • No hip belt

While this bag doesn’t have a frame or hip-belt like the Osprey Kyte, I was pleasantly surprised at the Gregory Alpaca’s load bearing capabilities. The removable, reinforced, padded shoulder straps contain an internal fiberglass rod to evenly distribute weight and prevent pinching on your hands. I packed this bag to the brim for two weeks in Europe and felt the backpack straps adequately supported the weight. The streamlined profile, weather resistant outer layer, and handles made it easy to maneuver. 

The Gregory Alpaca is maneuverable and slim for it's impressive size.
The Gregory Alpaca is maneuverable and slim for its impressive size.

Ashley Thess

My favorite part of this bag is the zipper. It’s smooth and durable for over-packers trying to contain everything in one bag. Plus, the oversized T-grip zipper pullers make it easy to quickly open and snag something. While this bag doesn’t have the structure and hipbelt of a backpacking backpack, it’s versatile enough for a weekend duffle or a weather resistant gear bag you aren’t afraid to lash down in a damp and dirty truck bed.

Best Lightweight: Patagonia Black Hole Duffel 40L

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Key Features

  • Weight: 2 pounds, 8 ounces
  • Material: 100 percent recycled polyester ripstop with a TPU-film laminate
  • Padded, removable shoulder straps
  • Price: $159

Pros

  • 100 percent recycled body fabric, lining, and webbing
  • Easily accessible main compartment
  • Weather resistant

Cons

  • No hipbelt

Patagonia’s Black Hole duffel is a weather resistant backpack that can also be carried by reinforced haul handles or the handheld loops on the top and bottom. The cavernous main compartment and wide opening give easy access to all of your items. There is also a mesh pocket on the underside of the opening and another large pocket that is accessible from an outer and inner zipper. The duffel is sold folded into this large pocket and you can re-pack it (I had to watch a video; it is a tight and specific fold) into the 10 x 7-inch pouch for storage.

The Black Hole duffle sits on a paddleboard.
The Black Hole duffel is highly weather resistant.

Ashley Thess

The backpack straps are easily removed, no de-threading buckles necessary. There are two plastic links at the top where the straps’ links can slip through and then catch in place. The bottom of the straps are buckled into the bottom of the bag. This gives you the option of an uncluttered duffle or convenient backpack. Each strap and corresponding link to the bag features an L or R for quick and accurate reattachment.

There are also hefty daisy chains on the sides to attach gear with carabiners or lash down your belongings in a boat, truck bed, or other means of transport. There’s no hipbelt, but the underside of the bag and straps are padded so a heavy load isn’t painful to carry. Lightweight, stackable, and sustainable, the black hole duffel is one of the best travel backpacks for adventure trips. 

Best Carry-On: Cotopaxi Allpa 35L

Best Carry-On

Cotopaxi Allpa 35L

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Key Features

  • Weight: 3 pounds, 8 ounces
  • Material: TPU-coated 1000D polyester
  • Includes rain cover
  • Removable hip belt
  • Padded laptop sleeve
  • Price: $200

Pros

Cons

  • Security zippers can be inconvenient
  • Wide surface area 

The Cotopaxi Allpa can be carried on your back or via one of the four handheld straps on all sides of the bag. These handheld straps are great for yanking your bag out of a pile or down from an overhead bin. I took this bag on a three-day ski trip where I stayed in a hotel and car camped. This bag was perfect in the hotel because of the four mesh zippered compartments to keep everything organized. In the car it was a little more difficult to splay the bag out fully for access to these compartments, but there is a side zipper that allows you to dig into the largest compartment without unzipping the entire bag.

The backpack straps are able to tuck into the back padding of the pack and the hipbelt can be removed for a streamlined profile. The Allpa also features safety zippers which means there are small straps over the zippers to prevent it from opening immediately when fully closed. To prevent snagging and thieves, the pull tab hits the loop first and must be threaded underneath to fully open the zipper. This simple design sounds smart, but it is a little annoying when you want to zip and unzip your own bag.

The desert color option is spot on for this best travel backpack
The desert color option is spot on. Ashley Thess

The plenitude of pockets and carrying methods make this a versatile and convenient pack for all kinds of travel. The thick and durable material means you won’t have to baby this bag on harsh trips. The rain cover is included but not integrated into the pack so you can leave it behind if you wish, though it is a handy way to protect your stuff from the elements. It is boxy with a large surface area. While the width and thickness is great for packing, you’ll want to be wary of knocking into things if you plan to be on crowded public transport. Luckily the sleek profile won’t catch on anything.

Best Diaper Bag: No Reception Club Getaway Bag

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Key Features

  • Meets airline personal item requirements and fits under seat 
  • Includes insulated lunch bag
  • Stroller clips
  • Three internal shelves
  • Odor and water resistant bottom pocket
  • Luggage handle passthrough 
  • Two external water bottle pockets
  • Size: 19.7 x 10.2 x 6.5 inches
  • Capacity: 24 liters
  • Weight: 2.7 pounds

Pros

  • Excellent organization 
  • Comfortable 
  • Holds everything needed for traveling with a baby or toddler 

Cons

  • Learning curve for remembering what’s in each pocket 

Few things are more stressful than hitting the road with an infant or toddler. They need a lot of supplies and entertainment to make it through even a three hour trip. You’ll also need to grab their favorite toy or diaper changing supplies without rifling through the entire bag. The Getaway has relieved some of the stress of traveling with my 6-month-old baby. Everything he needs has a dedicated place in the backpack.

Wipes, burp cloths, and a favorite toy are in the top compartment for easy access. A blanket is in the side compartment. The back panel holds a foldable changing pad. Diapers, bottles, and more toys are in the main compartment, which is divided into three shelves. The included insulated bag fits neatly into the center shelf and it holds two Dr. Brown’s 8-ounce bottles or one bottle and an ice pack. If your child is eating solids, it will hold several jars and an ice pack. 

When I first started using the Getaway there was some unzipping and zipping of pockets until I found what I needed. But now that I know my system it’s easy to navigate, and much better than a typical knapsack. 

The No Reception fanny pack holds the essentials for a quick outing.
The No Reception fanny pack holds the essentials for a quick outing, like to the doctor’s office.

Scott Einsmann

The Getaway carries a ton of baby supplies, and it’s ideal for when we’re on the road or out of the house for more than three hours. But, for a quick outing it’s overkill. That’s when I grab the Sidekick, a purpose-built diaper fanny pack. It holds a foldable changing pad, one diaper, and wipes. It has a quick access rear opening that makes dispensing wipes very easy. You can get the Sidekick and the Getaway as a bundle for $275 or the Getaway on its own for $235. —Scott Einsmann

Best Laptop Backpack

Matador Seg45

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Key Features

  • Weight: 2 pounds, 8 ounces
  • Material: 420D Bluesign PU coated nylon, DWR coating (PFC free)
  • Five stowable segmented pockets
  • Removable hipbelt and shoulder strap
  • Padded laptop pocket
  • Price: $200

Pros

  • Pockets for organization
  • Sealed zippers
  • Optional bulk or segmented storage

Cons

  • No padding on straps

Five segments each labeled with their capacity in liters is what sets this bag apart from other travel backpacks. The 6, 9, 15, 9, and 6-liter pockets keep your clothes and gear separate for easy organization, or can be stowed with internal g-hooks for bulk transport. Whether you plan to divide your things by day of the trip, type of clothing, or another method, it does help keep track of everything. Then, you can keep your dirty clothes separate from the ones you haven’t worn yet. 

There is also a large main compartment for you to store shoes or gear that you want to keep away from your clothes. Other storage options include a zippered water bottle pocket, small top pocket, and laptop sleeve. The backpack straps are stowable; the bottoms unclip and can be tucked inside the back of the bag and the tops remain attached so you can’t lose them. There are handheld loops on the top and right side of the bag as well as a removable shoulder strap. 

The hipbelt is not padded and is simply looped on. Given the size of this bag, you can really load it up and regret it once the thin nylon strips start to dig in. The looping means they are easily removed but it also means they can easily twist, causing more issues like taking the time to straighten them or dealing with the discomfort. The backpack straps have minimal padding so they don’t alleviate much pressure. The shoulder strap is also only nylon, though thicker than the hipbelt, with no padding. 

This travel backpack also includes security loops for the zippers, though they’re much easier to close fully without going through the trouble of tucking the tabs under the locking loops. The pull tabs on these zippers feature a rubber coating over the knot, but one fell off during testing, though it seems this is purely aesthetic. If you plan to pack mainly clothes, like for a business trip, and don’t need a lot of heavy or oddly shaped items, then this pack will serve you well. However the lack of padding, structure, and suspension makes the Seg45 difficult for gear-intensive trips.

Read Next: The Best Backpacks

Things to Consider Before Buying One of the Best Travel Backpacks

Comfort

When you’re carrying a heavy backpack all day through crowded areas, comfort is key. You’re going to be picking up and putting down this bag for the duration of your trip and possibly hustling with a lot of luggage and maybe kids. Padded straps, hip belts, load lifters, suspension, and multiple carry methods are all ways to make your load more comfortable. While the Osprey Kyte and Kestrel, Mountain Hardware Redeye, and Cotopaxi Allpa all have hipbelts to assist in carrying the load, the Patagonia Black Hole has plenty of padding to keep you comfortable and the Matador Seg45 has the option of switching to a shoulder strap if your back gets tired.

Organization

Pockets, easy access to compartments, and dividers are methods that assist in organization. Decide which are most inline with your travel style. If you plan to road trip or car camp frequently, multiple access points to the main compartment is helpful when you just need your headphones but your bag is at the bottom of the pile. Simply sneak them out through an alternate access point. The Seg45 offers five individual pockets for keeping track of what you’ll need throughout the journey. 

Airport Compatibility 

All of these bags are carry-on compliant by being within the standard 22 x 14 x 9-inch dimensions. However, if you need to bring a pocket knife or full-size liquids, consider how the bag will perform while checked as well. This is when the tuckable straps and removable hipbelts on some packs will come in handy. If you utilize the external loops to attach additional gear, keep in mind how these hanging items will affect stowability.

Read Next: The Best Filtered Water Bottles of 2023

Best Travel Backpacks: FAQs

Q: Can a 45L backpack be a carry-on?

Yes, a 45L backpack can be used as a carry-on, but it is the maximum size. If the bag is oddly shaped or overfilled you could have trouble. When you travel internationally or plan on using crowded public transportation opt for a 35 or 40 liter travel backpack if possible.

Q: How do I keep my travel backpack organized?

Thoughtfully designed pockets or the segmented structure of the Seg45 are great ways to keep your bag organized. However, if you prefer to take stock of all your clothes at once consider rolling them to keep them taut, but visible right when you open your bag. Utilize smaller pockets for tiny items so they don’t sink to the bottom of your bag.

Q: What is the most comfortable travel backpack for women?

The Osprey Kyte is a very comfortable backpacking bag designed for women that performs well while traveling. If you’re worried about carrying all of your belongings on your back over the course of your trip, I would recommend a backpacking bag like the Kyte. It is designed to make load hauling easier by distributing the weight across your hips and shoulders. To make the best travel backpacks even more comfortable, find out How to Pack a Backpack.

Final Thoughts on the Best Travel Backpacks

Traveling can be stressful, but having your luggage on your back means you’re less likely to lose it and you can maneuver more nimbly in high-pressure areas. The best travel backpacks are comfortable and keep you well-organized. When traveling internationally consider the Cotopaxi Allpa with security zippers and thoughtful pockets. If you’re camping try the durable, water-resistant Patagoina Black Hole Duffel. 

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Ashley Thess

Assistant Gear Editor

Ashley Thess is the Assistant Gear Editor for Outdoor Life, where she edits and writes gear reviews. Originally from Missouri, she now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, where she keeps an unruly gear closet.

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